Thousands of daycare owners, along with their supporters, marched in Montreal during the noon hour to denounce Quebec’s plans to cut $15 million from their budgets.

Their day-long walkout affects about 25,000 kids who attend the province’s private, subsidized daycares.

The president of the Quebec Private Daycares Association, Sylvain Lévesque, said only about half of the province’s 600 private, subsidized daycares participated in the walkout.

Lévesque said the other owners were too worried about possible fines.

Family Minister Nicole Léger warned that daycares that closed their doors could expect a penalty of $3,750, on average, and that amount would climb with each subsequent day of protest.

Levesque fired back: "It’s intimidation. A lot of people backed off because of the fine. But, ah, Pauline Marois was in the street last year [with protesting students]. Did she pay a fine? It’s a right of the citizen to go and to demonstrate."

Léger has defended the cuts saying they amount to about $21,000 per centre, compared to average profits of $100,000.

But in Lévesque’s view, the province should be targeting $7-a-day public daycares. He said the non-profit public daycares have huge surpluses.  

Mother worries about effects of cuts

Terrilyn Whelan, whose four-year-old son Casey goes to a private subsidized daycare, supports the protest. She’s worried about the long-term effects of such steep cuts on children’s development.

So far, Whelan is pleased with the way the daycare has encouraged her son.

"This is where he does all his work with his speech, and you know his motor skills, everything," she said. "So to take money and cut down for the services that I need for him, you know children like him, it’s not fair."